Ousmane Dembele wants to leave Borussia Dortmund for Barcelona and it’s no surprise to me – he has always been a determined character. When I was director of football at Rennes, he was 18 and also wanted to move. That was his own decision, it was not his family, entourage, or his agents, it was his decision and he boycotted training for five weeks.
He was away in his hometown training by himself and he didn’t want to speak to any of us, just a few text messages stating that we were ruining his career.
It took me a lot of time and perseverance to make him change his mind and come back to Rennes to sign his first pro contract with the club.
I’m glad that we did it, it was a team effort but I was constantly on the phone trying to get the best out of him.
He had two years left on his youth contract and he would have been away from competitive football and high-level training for two years, whether it was with the reserves or the first team. He had more to lose than Rennes did. I had an idea at that time that he would be sensational, but you never know how high the player can reach.
I was trying to explain to him during that time that I also left Rennes in a difficult situation. But I was 20 when I moved to Inter Milan, and I’d already played 48 games for Rennes in the French league so that was different. Dembele had no professional experience and wanted to go abroad. He could have gone to Red Bull Salzburg or Benfica, but for him it was about pride.
I said to put the pride aside, you’re going to shine and do well for Rennes – there is no doubt about this. My role was to really bring that confidence from the club into Ousmane’s head, because he had lost faith in the president and the coach.
He thought he would be unwanted, on the bench or the reserves for the long time. I knew his talent would speak for itself, he just needed to come back and train and everything would be OK.
For Ousmane it was a career plan, because his feeling was that the coach wasn’t going to play him so his talent would be wasted and go unnoticed. Finally he turned around completely, signed for Rennes and had an amazing season, then Dortmund came in – alongside all the big clubs in Europe. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, you name them.
By then he’s 19 and decides by himself again that he is going to go to Dortmund because they have faith in youth, and they have space for him to play every week.
If you go back to his first interview he said his ultimate dream is to play for Barcelona one day. When he signed for Dortmund, he got word from the Dortmund president that if Barca were going to come for him they would listen.
He feels now the €150 million requested is overpriced. I understand his stance but I don’t agree with it. But that’s his reaction and that’s what the French do, they go on strike!
From his point of view it’s Barcelona or nothing. It’s power, for sure, in the player’s hands, and ultimately the money is too much for Dortmund to lose.
Even if the club is in a healthy situation financially – they didn’t plan on selling him after a year – if you turn down a €120m offer, or even €100m, you don’t know what will happen in six months or a year’s time. Regardless, I think down the line the player will end up at Barcelona.
With Barca, you can read between their movements for Paulinho and possibly Jean Michael Seri. They are clearly not planned transfer targets – they are in reaction mode. They were not planning on losing Neymar.
With Neymar, Messi and Suarez they had a safe house, but now it looks like one of the three pillars is missing, and now the whole house is tumbling.
The fact that Lionel Messi hasn’t signed his new contract is also not a good sign, and it looks like there is a lack of leadership and strategy. Surely the players are the first witness of that.
Neymar also wasn’t happy with the choices of the board, and the atmosphere with the squad at the moment isn’t 100 per cent positive. But the players have to perform and win trophies, they can’t look back and keep moaning.
Seri is a midfielder who has made huge progress in such a short time at Nice, but compared to Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, he is not there yet.
That’s what happens when you buy a player from Ligue 1, you hope he will step up and learn quickly from these players. But it’s not clear for me that he has the potential to become a starter at Barcelona. The thing is, this year he should have an opportunity to do so. It’s a good time to go to Barcelona. The club is not in crisis, but this season is a turning point.
Lukas Podolski has received an apology from ultra-conservative news website Breitbart, who used an image of the ex-Germany international alongside a story about illegal immigration, with the striker threatening legal action.
The website originally published an article entitled “Spanish Police Crack Gang Moving Migrants on Jet-Skis” with a picture of the ex-Arsenal star on a jet-ski before it was swiftly changed.
The picture showed Podolski on a jet ski which was taken at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where the German team were enjoying a day off.
The 32-year-old Podolski, who now plays for Japanese side Vissel Kobe and made his final international appearance in March, has been in touch with his lawyer.
“It’s a mess. Lukas distances himself from it and won’t let himself be exploited,” Podolski’s manager Nassim Touihri told German daily Bild. “Our lawyer is already involved.”
The wrongly-used picture was shared widely on social media before the website amended the article.
“A previous version of this story included an image of Lukas Podolski on a jet ski,” read an Editor’s Note.
“This image appeared as an illustration of a person on a jet ski. “Breitbart London wishes to apologise to Mr. Podolski.
“There is no evidence Mr. Podolski is either a migrant gang member, nor being human trafficked. “We wish Mr. Podolski well in his recently announced international retirement.”
Neymar starred from beginning to end on his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain, scoring twice in a 6-2 thumping of Toulouse in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
The Brazilian superstar had a hand in everything else his new side did at the Parc des Princes as they recovered from the shock of falling behind early on to a Max Gradel goal.
Neymar got the equaliser and helped set up Adrien Rabiot for the goal that gave PSG the lead 10 minutes before half-time, but the 222 million-euro ($261 million) man saved the best for the closing stages.
After Marco Verratti had been sent off to leave PSG down to 10 men, the ex-Barcelona forward won a penalty that Edinson Cavani converted for the hosts’ third.
He watched Javier Pastore make it four, set up Layvin Kurzawa for the fifth and scored a stunning goal, his second of the night, at the death to complete the rout.
It was PSG’s third win in as many league games this season and they join reigning champions Monaco and Saint-Etienne in having the maximum nine points to their name.
Saint-Etienne visit the French capital next weekend and will be dreading the prospect after this latest exhibition from PSG’s new superstar.
Neymar had a part in all of his side’s goals in last week’s 3-0 win at Guingamp, scoring one in his first game in French football since his stunning transfer, and he was again involved in everything here.
Gradel, making his first appearance for Toulouse after joining from Bournemouth, volleyed the away side in front in the 18th minute but Neymar had already seen a shot strike the top of the bar before that.
The Brazilian then saw a header tipped onto the post by Alban Lafont before he levelled matters just after the half-hour mark, setting up Rabiot for a shot that was pushed out by the away goalkeeper before following in to convert the loose ball.
The same duo combined as PSG went in front, Rabiot playing a one-two with Neymar before beating Lafont with a low strike into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
The second half was quieter before coming to life after Verratti was harshly shown a second yellow card for catching Christopher Jullien in the Toulouse area in the 69th minute.
Soon after, the referee gave a harsh decision the other way, awarding a penalty for a foul on Neymar when Toulouse striker Andy Delort appeared to play the ball.
Cavani made no mistake from the spot, the goal his 11th in his last 11 Ligue 1 games, but Toulouse quickly pulled another one back when the giant Jullien headed in from a corner with 12 minutes left to make it 3-2.
Yet there was to be no grandstand finish from the visitors, as instead substitute Pastore – the man who has lost his place to accommodate Neymar – curled in a superb fourth.
Neymar’s corner was then headed in by Kurzawa. But Neymar had to have the last word and somehow engineered himself space in the area before finishing to make it 6-2 and bring the Parc des Princes crowd to its feet.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Marcelo Bielsa suffered a second straight loss as Lille coach as his side crashed to a disappointing 2-0 home defeat against Caen.
Marseille extended their unbeaten league run to 14 matches but were frustrated by Angers in a 1-1 draw at the Stade Velodrome.
Radamel Falcao struck his fifth goal in three games on Friday to guide Monaco to a 1-0 win at Metz, while Saint-Etienne brushed aside newcomers Amiens 3-0 on Saturday.